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Positivity is earned, not given in covering the Jaguars

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Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

17.

That's the number of games the Jacksonville Jaguars have won in the last five years.

No team has had a worse stretch in the last five years as the Jaguars have, as frustrating seasons have piled up. There have been offseason's filled with hope. Drafts filled with potential. Winning the offseason has been a staple of the Jaguars story line the last few years, yet it has failed to lead to actual wins.

I figured I'd address the issue many people have with this site. Many readers believe the writers at BCC are too negative about the Jaguars. They aren't optimistic enough about the Jaguars chances, and we take every chance to pour on Blake Bortles anytime we can.

Look, I can see how the lack of optimism can be bothersome to some people. People tend to come to team specific sites because they feel the national media does not cover the team as well.  The national media is full of people who probably did five minutes of Google research, especially for a team lower on the totem poll of demand in coverage like the Jaguars.

Fans like to read positive things about their favorite team. They like to have optimism. I mean when you really think about it, being a fan of specific sports team is a crazy thing to do. To pour money, and time into a losing football team, let alone any football team is actually a strange thing. If an alien were to be dropped off on earth, and explained fandom in professional sports, it would make no sense. Why have such blind loyalty to something that rarely rewards you? Why invest so much money in something that brings you pain more than not?

So when someone invest that time and money into something, they liked to feel good about it. They want to feel like they have a true purpose to their investment. They like to be justified for their fandom. There is no better feeling than trash talking to friends, or being able to brag about any little edge your team has.

So of course fans have rose colored glasses more than not. In this case, teal-colored. Many people have a real personal connection to the Jaguars, and want so desperately for them to be successful. The Jaguars are like a child to many of us. No matter how much they disappoint, many always have hope they can bounce back, and leave their mistakes in the past. Some will always believe, because that love is truly real.

Here is the thing: All of the writers here love the Jaguars too. I know, it seems hard to believe. We wouldn't cover the Jaguars if we didn't love them. We all were brought to the passion to write, and talk about football from the Jaguars.

The Jaguars have been a part of my life since I can remember. I fell in love with the Jaguars of the late 90's. Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Keenan McCardell, and my favorite as a kid, Jimmy Smith, made a kid from Maryland with no actual connection to Jacksonville fall in love with the Jaguars. I remember crying after they lost the 1999 AFC Championship game to the Titans, telling my parents it wasn't fair. I also remember years later, wearing my Jaguars gear to school so proud after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 Wild Card game. (In Maryland, there are a ton of Steelers fans, so it made it even sweeter).

Since then I've had plenty of times convincing myself they would bounce back to that level. I thought Gene Smith would be a better general manager than Shack Harris. I thought Blaine Gabbert could maybe put it together in the NFL, even with a shaky college career. I thought Justin Blackmon would be one of the best receivers in the league. I thought Luke Joeckel would be here for a decade. I thought Bortles would be at least an average quarterback in 2016. I thought the Jaguars would finally win more than five games in 2016.

There becomes a point where one can no longer be blindly optimistic. There becomes a point where the Jaguars have to win some games before I can just believe they will be better.

Do I think the Jaguars had a positive offseason? Sure. I thought they did well in free agency again, signing A.J Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Barry Church to bolster the defense. I wasn't a huge fan of taking Leonard Fournette, but I thought getting Cam Robinson, Dede Westbrook, and Blair Brown were steals where they were drafted. I can think they had a productive offseason, and still be skeptical how much it will impact the Jaguars win total.

Since 2013, when Caldwell took the job as General Manager, the Jaguars have picked in the top-five every single season. Since 2013, there have been ten teams to pick in the top 5 who have had winning records in that same time span. The Raiders, Chiefs, Eagles, Texans, Bills, Bucs, Redskins, Cowboys,Titans and Chargers have all had winning records in that time span. Six out of ten of them had made the playoffs as well, which includes the Raiders, Chiefs, Eagles, Texans, Redskins, and Cowboys. Of those six, three of them made the playoffs the season after they picked top-five (Chiefs, Eagles, Cowboys).

Basically, the point is that rebuilding does not take as long as some make it out to seem. the Jaguars are in Year 5 of their rebuild, and they finished with a worse record in their fourth year than their first year. The talent on the roster has improved, but who cares? If they aren't winning games, the rest does not matter.

They also should not get credit for improving the talent on the roster, because there was no where to go but up. Just because one didn't make the mess on the floor, does make it acceptable to only clean up half of it, just because you did not create the mess.

Think about Doug Whaley, the former Bills general manager who was fired right after their draft. He and the Bills were mocked for having a dysfunctional organization. Want to know how many games the Bills won the last four years when he was general manager?

6, 9, 8, and 7.

Each year they won at least six games, more than the Jaguars have ever even reached once In the Dave Caldwell era. They also did this with EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton, and Tyrod Taylor, who wasn't even sure to be their starter in 2015. So the argument about "well, they had good quarterback play" doesn't work here. They won nine games with Kyle Orton as their main starter.

And hell, maybe Doug Marrone is a really good coach, and his records in that time span speak more about him then we realize. But the point remains, teams who others considered dysfunctional won more games. What the hell does that make the Jaguars?

What exactly had changed that should make me believe this team is all of sudden changed. Sure, Doug Marrone is much more hard nosed guy than Gus Bradley, but I have no reason to believe Marrone is worth five more wins just on himself. They kept the same offensive and defensive coordinators. The same defensive coordinator that some of the defensive players trashed the scheme they ran, by the way.

It is, of the most part, many of the same pieces on offense. And although you can expect some peoples performances to bounce back, is that again, worth four or five more wins? The only thing that could truly boost this groups performance is Blake Bortles, and he has not exactly provided the best confidence in him.

Here is the thing about Bortles too. Not only does he need to get back to his 2015 form, he needs to exceed that, and by a big margin. 2015 was a nice stepping stone, but if Bortles wants to be a quarterback In this league for awhile, he will need to surpass his 2015 performance, and form a new standard for himself. So yes, that is the reasons I have doubts. Many believe that he can get back to 2015 form. That is not enough though. if the Jaguars are going to be a true competitive team next season, he needs his best season ever. His most efficient. So why it can be easy to believe he can bounce back to 2015 form after regressing, can't we all see how him some how bouncing back even better after a dreadful season may be wishful thinking?

I could write all day about Bortles, and his upcoming season will be written and discussed much on here in the upcoming months, so I won't dive too much into it. However, putting 100 percent confidence in Bortles after what we have seen for three seasons seems like a pretty risky proposition, but it is exactly what the Jaguars have done.

I want the Jaguars to win. I want to eat my words. I want the change of culture to be real. For the secondary to be one of the nastiest groups in the league, and for the Allen's to regain their form as one of the best receiving duo's in the league. For the Jaguars to finally play games that matter in December.

I don't want to settle for mediocre. Hell, mediocre would be nice at this point. The Jaguars have been dreadful. I will always be a fan and root for them every Sunday. However, I will also give my honest opinion on them, and call them out when I feel they need to be called out.

So I won't just shut up and blindly support everything the team does. I will critique them, because I think that is what a good fan does. I will also applause them when the succeed, because lord knows we all need some more things to cheer about lately. If the Jaguars go 10-6, I'll rave about their team, how they have overachieved, and how Doug Marrone was able to guide his team to victories. How the offseason moves helped shape a winning team in Jacksonville.

Until that day comes, I remain skeptical. That is because I believe things are earned in life, and not given. When the Jaguars prove to me they can be a winning organization, the praise will flow. For now, I will sit back and watch, and cross my fingers that they finally prove me wrong this time.